COMING SOON: MAGICAL OPPORTUNITIES, MORE CHÉRIE, MORE AWESOME, MORE BOURBON, MORE INTERVIEWS, MORE ZOMBIES, MORE BAD IDEAS, MAKEOVERS, TOP SECRET RENDEZVOUSES, NANOWRIMO!!!!!!
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Justin Hocking is the Executive Director of the Independent Publishing Resource Center in Portland, Oregon, which is maybe the coolest place in the universe. Perhaps you would like to letterpress something? Perfect-bind your own books? Silkscreen with chocolate syrup onto pancakes (no, really)? Mm hmm. You go there. Justin is also a writer and survived a publishing career in New York before sensibly fleeing for greener pastures. We asked him some questions.
Please tell everyone a little bit about yourself and what you do.
Well, first and foremost I’m a writer.I did an MFA in creative writing at Colorado State University, and afterwards moved to New York City, where I worked for a couple years as an assistant editor.As someone with a background in DIY culture—skateboarding, zines, etc—I felt uncomfortable working in corporate publishing.I’m always thinking about ways we as writers can independently produce and publish work, similar to the way a band like Fugazi produced their own music for decades.So I jumped at the chance to take the Executive Director job at the Independent Publishing Resource Center in Portland, OR.Our mission is to facilitate creative expression, identity and community through providing public acess to tools and resources for self-publishing.We have a huge zine library, a computer lab, copiers/commercial printers, a letterpress studio and a perfect binding machine.It’s a totally unique place where you can bring a book or zine project from idea to final fruition, and you can do it all entirely by hand.Rather than a publishing company, we’re a true publishing community —something I think the world needs more of right now.
Zines are clearly more awesome than what people think of when they think of self-publishing. Why is this so, do you think?
Traditionally there’s been a disdain—mostly in academia and New York publishing circles—for the whole concept of self-publishing.In some ways I can totally understand this—“vanity publishing” is generally about wealthy people wasting large amounts of money to print unreadable books.But there’s a sea change taking place.So many of us young or young-ish writers grew up making zines and putting work out ourselves on tiny budgets. We are into the actual craft of making publications, and we don’t wait around for anyone else to validate us as artists. Zines have always been a fusion of book arts, DIY culture and literature, and I believe this kind of fusion needs to spill over into the book world.My prediction is that as more and more people read text off computer screens or the Kindle, the kind of physical books that will survive are those with a hand-crafted, artful aesthetic.I mean, if someone can have an entire library on their Kindle, why else would they want to own any actual books?It’s akin to the “locavore” movement, where people are increasingly choosing locally grown heirloom tomatoes over factory-farmed produce.So yes, zines are not only awesome—they’re also the future.
What's a day in the life of Justin Hocking, IPRC Executive Director look like?
It looks like me sitting here at work on a Saturday, covering for a volunteer who couldn’t make it. Running a nonprofit is a huge amount of work and I have to wear so many hats:the grant-writing hat, the fundraising hat, the administrative hat, even the taking-out-the-garbage hat, which is made out of old take-out Thai food containers and scrap paper.But I really love this job, especially now that we started a new yearlong Certificate Program in Creative Writing/Comics and independent Publishing.So on top of everything else, I now get to teach a weekly creative writing workshop with a group of talented writers who will go on to publish their own books through the IPRC.
Trick question: how important do you think it is to support independent media in a culture that is increasingly dominated by corporate media?
I’m obviously skeptical about certain aspects of corporate media/publishing, but then again I know from experience that there are many, many great individuals working in that field—people with a passion for books and amazing editing skills.They bring cutting edge projects like The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao into the world.And you know, though I put out my own little books through the IPRC, I also really hope to get my current memoir project published by an outside company.Something I’m always trying to impress on my creative writing students is the importance of playing the publishing game on all levels.So I believe in spending money to support the Simon and Schusters, as well as the Soft Skull Presses and the zinesters of the world.Just be aware that when you buy a Simon and Schuster book, most of your dollars go to Viacom.
Some books you've read lately that you found pleasing?
As mentioned, the Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz.Diaz is like a street-smart Shakespeare, plus his work is all heart.A new memoir by Portland’s own Kevin Sampsell called A Common Pornography .Also Cash: The Autobiography of Johnny Cash. I return to Moby Dick on a pretty much daily basis.Oh yeah, and I just read a book by Matthew Dickman, one of the identical twin poets from Portland.I’m blown away by his work—he’s a relatively young guy writing ecstatic poetry in the tradition of Whitman and Mary Oliver—the kind that strikes spiritual chords without pretension or over-intellectualiziation.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Mystical transport, multiple dimensions, advanced beings, aliens that seeded the planet Earth with the human race and their subsequent romantic endeavors, demons demons demons demons, favorite prostitutes, time travel, time-traveling pirates, time-traveling aliens, time-traveling terrorists, porn stars, offspring of porn stars, mad Russian scientists ("Is there any other kind of Russian scientist?" says "Steve").
Okay also? Maybe you had this idea to make your query letter into a rhyming poem? And to start it with "Dear 'Steve,' Hiya hot stuff!!!!"? That's not actually a good idea.
Monday, October 26, 2009
1. After a rejection, you generally
a. Rejection? Is that, like, when Z.Z. Packer accidentally spills her drink on you at your New Yorker party?
b. Have a couple of drinks, possibly weep if it’s been a particularly bad week, and read a bunch of cheesy genre novels.
c. Shrug, add it to the pile on your Rejection Spike and happily continue planning your outfits for your future author events. Clearly not everyone’s got taste.
d. Send out another mass email to the same three hundred agents because YOU WILL BREAK DOWN THE DOORS OF THE VAST CONSPIRACY THAT IS THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY THROUGH SHEER FORCE OF WILL AND DIVINE INSPIRATION.
2. A great day is
a. That MacArthur fellowship was pretty cool.
b. OMG two partial requests and a full BREAK OUT THE BOURBON!!!!!!!!
c. A day away from the computer after a super-productive week of twelve-hour writing days! Maybe a nice 18-mile run (gotta get ready for the marathon!) and a trip to a museum with your six special needs foster children!
d. Moving to the next astral plane after a busy five minutes outlining the fifteenth book in your illustrated series about an intergalactic warrior and his adventures in the pants of the hottest chicks in the universe.
3. “Voice” means
a. Enunciating clearly when you deliver your Nobel Prize acceptance speech.
b. Something people should work really hard on, can you pass that cocktail please?
c. Why, are you referring to my novel written in the style of medieval French scribes, composed after a decade of full-time research?
d. The stentorian tones of Mirgul, Emperor of the galaxy Fredzon, as he narrates his history directly into your brain.
4. Your query letter
a. was Nicole Aragi calling you at home.
b. Yeah, yeah. Shut up already. I know it’s important. I GET BUSY.
c. is a work of art.
d. begins: Dear To Whom It May Concern Agent 100% BESTSELLER POTENTAIL GAURANTEED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Mostly as: OMG, Junot Diaz reads our blog!!!!
Mostly bs: You are like our little kindred spirit. Kinda batshit, but with lovable moments. Hang in there. Go jogging or something, eat vegetables, maybe pick up a wholesome hobby. We hear yoga is helpful.
Mostly cs: Fuck you, showoff. Anyway, you're doing fine.
Mostly ds: Oh, sweetheart. There are people that can help you. THOSE PEOPLE ARE NOT WORKING IN A FUCKING LITERARY AGENCY though, OKAY?
Saturday, October 24, 2009
You know when you were going to spend the whole day working on your book but end up buying fake fur coats and looking at blogs hating on cute animals instead (this one is JUST FOR YOU, moonrat)? Oh well.
Hey New York? GUESS WHAT THE MIDNIGHT MOVIE AT THE SUNSHINE IS. Hmm? Hmm? It's fun to be a vampire, Author-friends!!! We'll see you there!!!
Friday, October 23, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Kevin Sampsell is the publisher of indie press Future Tense Books, and longtime events coordinator and small press buyer for Powell's City of Books (that would be the largest independent bookstore in the world, thank you) in Portland, Oregon. His own fiction has been published widely, and he's the author of a memoir coming out from Harper Perennial in January 2010. He was nice enough to let us pester him.
Please tell everyone about who you are and what you do.
I’m Kevin Sampsell and I am a writer, small press publisher, bookstore worker, dad, and doughnut connoisseur.
The World of the Independent Bookseller: More perilous, less perilous, or equally as perilous as ten years ago? What role do you think independent bookstores will continue to play in the mysterious realm of The Future?
The world of booksellers and bookstores is more perilous and has shrunk smaller than where it was ten years ago. One of the reasons is of course the Internet and that people can buy more stuff off the web than in 1999. And then you also have big giant chain stores coming into neighborhoods and closing down two or three other places in the same zip code. Which isn’t to say that all big stores are bad. Even some of the chains can serve a good purpose when they serve a community that was lacking in the past. But independent bookstores are usually staffed by more knowledgeable and enthusiastic readers and book geeks of all stripes. It’s kind of peculiar that the world of big publishing is shrinking and people are being laid off everywhere but there are all these small presses popping up every month and releasing really engaging books. Because of that, I think independent bookstores can have a resurgence, but they have to support these new small presses more so that we can all grow together. One great example is a new place in Seattle called Pilot Books.
Is it totally deluded to think the paper book will never die out altogether? How do you feel about e-books and online content?
I think it’s pretty dumb to really think that paper books will ever die. Even if we run out of trees and have to start hiring underground rebels to print things on some weird corn-cotton hybrid paper, they will stay alive. I like E-books and online content too though. It depends on the type of book. If it’s fairly short I don’t mind reading an e-book or a story on-line. I can’t imagine reading anything longer than 10,000 words in one sitting off a computer though. When it comes to books vs screens, I prefer books, but there’s still a range of quality. A website can be just as boring or painful as a badly produced book. A really cool website can be just as thrilling as a fancy book from McSweeney’s or Chronicle.
What are a few books you've read lately that you've been pleased by?
My favorite book this year so far is Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower. It’s just a masterful and greatly entertaining collection of stories. Also, The Alcoholic , a graphic novel by Jonathan Ames (illustrated by Dean Haspiel) was super good. Hold on—let me consult my Goodreads page. Oh, yeah—these were also great “5-star” reads for me this year: The Girl with Brown Fur by Stacey Levine, The Cradle by Patrick Sommerville, Some Things That Meant the World to Me by Joshua Mohr, Ablutions by Patrick DeWitt, and The Adderall Diaries by Stephen Elliott. And of course, there are the books I’ve published, like Chelsea Martin’s Everything Was Fine Until Whatever and the newest release, Put Your Head In My Lap by Claudia Smith.
What's most exciting to you about working in the indie world, and having your own publishing company?
I am enormously lucky to be where I’m at now. I’ve been publishing for almost twenty years now and working at Powell’s for twelve years. I feel like I’m able to keep my fingers on the pulse of things pretty easily. And when you’ve been doing this stuff for as long as I have, you develop great relationships as well—not just with writers and publishers, but with readers and fans. One of the biggest thrills for me, always, is releasing a book by someone who is getting better and better as a writer. I love feeling like I’m helping these authors get more readers, more respect, and more recognition—that I might be their stepping stone to something bigger.In January, I even get to graduate to the big press world for a while—Harper Perennial is publishing my memoir, A Common Pornography , and I even get to do a big tour and see my name in ads and stuff like that. It’s pretty crazy. You might think that some of the hardcore Indie-or-Die kind of folks would think I’ve sold out or something, but I haven’t detected any of that weirdness at all. Everyone has been really happy for me. And I’m still going to be stapling chapbooks in my kitchen for the next several years.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
GOOD TODAY DELIGHTFUL LABORERS OF WORDING! THIS DELICIOUS REJECTIONIST CREATURE HAS COME TO SLEEPINESS! THUS KARL OFFERS MESSAGE TO YOU OF KARLNESS WONDER! KARL DOES NOT LOVE THIS ITEM OF SELF-DOUBT IN YOU, AUTHORLINGS! KARL WANTS GROWTH OF YOUR HEART TO BRILLIANCE NOVEL! HOW DOES KARL COME TO KARLNESS? NOT THROUGH IDEAS OF TIMIDITY, LITTLE ONES! THIS YEAR KARL TO PARIS SAYS, HOW MUST DIVINENESS ENTER? THROUGH MAGICAL BARNYARDS AND THE TROMPINGS IN PASTURES! LOOK TO KARL! LOOK TO THE BRIGHTNESS! FABULOUS IS EQUALING FEARLESS, AUTHORLINGS! WHEN KARL MAKES SPLENDOR, HE HOLDS NOT BACK FROM MAJESTY! DO NOT COME TO KARL WITH YOUR FEEBLE IMAGININGS! UNLEARN THIS STIFLING! LET LOOSE THE HEART FLIGHTINGS WITH BRAVENESS! IF KARL CAN MAKE FARMS IN THE GRAND PALAIS LITTLE PETLETS CAN MAKE A BOOK!
Friday, October 16, 2009
Reviewing books makes us SLEEPY. Everybody read Michiko Kakutani's total evisceration of Jonathan Lethem's new man-hipster novel in the NYT this week, yes? See? WE TOLD YOU NOT TO WRITE ABOUT HIPSTERS. You think we don't know what we're doing because we cuss a lot, but we are SMART.
Today's theme song: Just listen to a lot of Woody Guthrie and set something on fire.
No. 5: Jamaica Kincaid, Lucy
Lucy is a spare, merciless, and utterly beautiful book, a ruthlessly honest portrait of a complex and perilous adolescence. One does not often encounter a book so complete, so perfectly realized from its first sentence to its last; a book in which every word has weight and is in exactly the right place, peppered with gems of sentences so flawless they beg to be read aloud, over and over again. One has the impulse to tattoo this book upon one's heart. Lucy 's eponymous narrator is a ferociously honest with herself as she is with other people, and it is this devastating honesty that elevates her anger into insight. The story, like its language, is deceptively simple; Lucy is a young woman who has come from her home of Antigua to a nameless East Coast city to work as an au pair for a wealthy white couple, Lewis and Mariah. As much out of place in her birthplace as she is in her new home, Lucy coolly dissects her own homesickness, the obliviousness of her new employers, who entreat her to consider herself a member of the family even as they are paying her to raise their own children, and her own complicated feelings for Mariah, whose helplessness inspires in her a freighted melange of pity, contempt, and love. Kincaid's stunningly precise language contains the weight of a hundred shades of meaning in every terse sentence; Lucy is as much a lesson in craft as it is a virtuoso feat of storytelling.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Yesterday at the Union Square farmer's market we passed a lady dressed as a giant piece of bacon, interviewing a man at a table advertising psychic consultation/life coaching services, being filmed by a large television crew. It did not occur to us to find anything about this scenario out of the ordinary until a few moments later, when we overheard a couple of tourists discussing it in hushed tones of awe. We are pretty sure this unstudied nonchalance means we are as officially New York as a grass-fed West Coast hippie can get, Author-friends! We've come a long way from the day we walked six blocks to eat our lunch in Madison Square Garden because we thought it was a park. Mmm hmm.
Okee, here you are. Book four, and our LIVER. This is HARD. We aren't even LOOKING at NON-FICTION. Maybe that will be another whole week.
Today's theme song: Nirvana, "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (IS TOO a protest song. Shut up.)
No. 4: Francesca Lia Block, Dangerous Angels
We have now reverted to shameless cheating, because Dangerous Angels is in fact an anthology of five books ( Weetzie Bat, Witch Baby, Cherokee Bat and the Goat Guys, Missing Angel Juan, and Baby Be-Bop ). But they are all short. And related. Kind of like chapters, yes? Fine, if we must choose: Block's first novel, the pop-punk anthem Weetzie Bat , the book that defined an entire generation of Sassy -raised zine-trading combat-boot-and-prom-dress-to-school-wearing young (mostly) ladies. Francesca Lia Block's writing is sheer magic, a jewelry box packed to bursting with rhinestone tiaras and crazy old lady brooches and feathers and Christmas lights. Nobody since has ever put sentences together quite like her, though plenty of people have tried, and we would argue that Francesca Lia Block is as important (and as underappreciated) as the legendary S.E. Hinton in creating the possibility of an entire genre of literature for smart, restless, alienated teenagers and the smart, restless, alienated adults they'd turn out to be. It's easy to underestimate Weetzie Bat ; but under the sheer delight of her loopy and brilliantly imaginative Shangri-L.A. is a fiercely strong message of hope and love, and a transcendent mythology that returns always to the necessity of family and friends in dark times. Weetzie Bat was our first signal, as a young person, that there were in fact other people in the wide universe who thought like us, and we reread our first copy until its covers fell off; a few years later, we had the inestimable pleasure of introducing FLB at the bookstore we worked at back in the day (her reading fell, coincidentally, on our nineteenth birthday, and our copy of Dangerous Angels is inscribed Happy Birthday! Love, Francesca). She was every bit as delightful and charming and tiny and gorgeous and sparkly as her perfect, perfect novels. Weetzie Bat and its sequels are each their own little rapturous clouds of delight, striking and funny and wildly original and ferocious: dangerous angels indeed.
Rejectionist Book Review Cornucopia Day Three; Or, We Now Feel As Though We Are Being Asked to Select Which of Our Children We Love the Most
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
But it's our fault for doing this anyway. When we were small we had an elaborate (written) schedule of which stuffed animals we would sleep with on which night, so that our other stuffed animals would not feel neglected. And you thought we were an asshole.
Today's Theme Song: Bruce Springsteen, "No Surrender"
No. 3: Tom Spanbauer, The Man Who Fell in Love With the Moon
There are books you read and then there are books that break open your whole idea of what a book is supposed to be, books that rip out your heart and gut you mercilessly, books that run you down like a big old train of love and joy and sorrow. We spent a long time thinking about what we could say about this ruthless scalpel of a book, this book that makes you remember history is only a set of stories and all people have told all kinds of stories, more stories than you ever could have thought possible, all along. "If you're the devil, then it's not me telling this story," says this book, and from the very first line you know you're in trouble. The Man Who Fell In Love With the Moon is a little miracle of a book, new-minted and impossible; we could tell you what it is about, or what it does, but we wouldn't be doing it justice, and if we told you the plot you would laugh at us, and if we tried to explain the way this book moved through us and destroyed us and then remade us you wouldn't believe us, probably. More than anything else, Tom Spanbauer (in this and the equally gorgeous, mesmeric In the City of Shy Hunters ) writes about choosing to love yourself when the whole relentless misery of the outside world lines up at your door and tells you not to; about sex and death and identity, about racism, about fear, about queerness, about memory, about courage. We love this book in a way that doesn't make sense. The first and second and third time we read this book we cried hard enough to shake every broken and lonely thing out of our heart and get back up freer. That's all we can think of to say about it.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
It is only the second day of our Protest Action and already we are feeling anxious. Like, there are only five days in a work week! which means only FIVE BOOKS! which is WAY TOO FEW! and makes us feel like we felt on every single one of the SIXTEEN interviews we went on before securing our current illustrious position, where whatever harried HR person who was trying to assess our sanity/competence/ability to memorize exactly the preferred ratio of sugar-free vanilla syrup to espresso in potential boss's Corporate Coffee beverage of choice would ask us what our favorite book was and, even though we totally knew it was coming every time, we would feel like crying, because IF YOU CARE AT ALL ABOUT BOOKS YOU SHOULD FUCKING KNOW THERE IS NO ANSWER TO THAT WRETCHED WRETCHED QUESTION. We've been reading somewhere between two and three hundred books a year for the last, oh, say, at least two decades, which is a LOT of books to pick from, Author-friends, and we thought this little book-review project would be a lark but now it is making us want to weep with despair. Just so you know.
ALSO MAY WE PLEASE REMIND YOU NOT TO WRITE YOUR NOVEL IN "AN IMPRESSIONISTIC STYLE" PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE DO YOU HATE US? IS THAT IT? YOU HATE US, DON'T YOU.
Today's theme song: Tom Waits, "I Don't Wanna Grow Up"
No. 2: Donna Tartt, The Secret History
The Secret History was also a book we read at a very impressionable age, when we were enormously eager to depart the, shall we euphemistically say, intellectually cramped environs of our home turf and embark on our voyage to the storied realm of higher education, where of course everyone would be as elegant and brilliant as Henry and his friends, and we too would sit around fixing ourselves endless cocktails and translating Dante into Sanskrit out of sheer fabulous ennui. We have read this book so many times we sometimes forget it's fiction, and have on more than one occasion asked our Support Team if he remembers the time Judy Poovey gave Richard Demerol at that terrible party, only to remember mid-sentence that we are talking about imaginary people. The Secret History is that rarest and most perfect of things: a potboiler-hearted literary novel, a piece of literature that is, in essence, pure shameless crack, but so beautifully composed one does not feel the slightest bit of embarrassment at losing oneself altogether in its pages, half-expecting to hear Bunny's booming, honking voice at the window, shouting up a demand to be let in. Donna Tartt is a magnificently erudite writer, and an absolute master at creating that particular restless lovely nostalgia for a time that never existed and events that never took place; a gorgeous ache worthy of Fitzgerald, for a decadent world that is, despite its rotten core, immensely appealing. And, like Gatsby 's Nick, Richard Papen is an irredeemably unreliable narrator who wins you over even as you tell yourself you know better; so that you, like him, are so taken in by the trappings of wealth and brilliance that murdering two people comes to seem a regrettable but necessary inconvenience, and the ensuing inevitable fallout manages to impress itself upon you as tragedy rather than deserved retribution.
Monday, October 12, 2009
In the Spirit of Resistance embodied by the fantabulous Janet Reid, we are officially naming this week Rejectionist Book Review Week. Also, y'all seem to have gotten the impression somehow that we dislike everything. We do not, in fact, dislike everything. We like: our Support Team, Ann Demeulemeester f/w '09 (HOLY F*CK THOSE COATS THOSE COATS THOSE COATS), hamburgers, the Jesus and Mary Chain, Maker's, cute rescue pitbulls, um, one or two other things, and The People's Revolution, which is AROUND THE CORNER SO GET READY. Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will, people! Oh yeah! and we like books. So this week, Author-friends, in no particular order, we shall present to you a Random Sampling of the Rejectionist's Best-Beloved. Okay? Okay!
ATTENTION FTC: We did not get paid by nobody to review no books. Nope. Also, bought all of these books our own self, except for the ones we begged "Steve" to procure for us at one of "Steve's" many "meetings" (read: liquid lunches) with various editors. Although if someone wanted to pay us, or send us more books, we would certainly not say no or anything. Ahem, publicists!
TODAY'S THEME SONG: The Coup, "50 Million Ways to Kill A CEO"
No. 1: Michael Ende, The Neverending Story
This, Author-friends, is the first book the wee infant Rejectionist ever fetched from the Adult Fiction Shelves of our local library, which were appropriately located in a dimly lit and somewhat cavernous back room, and we remember very distinctly the sense of Import we felt pulling this extraordinary volume off the towering shelf with our tiny hands. The first edition (which we are now very pleased to own ourself, in both the UK and American editions, and we would really like the German as well, but can't afford it; so we're a dork, shoot us) is printed in green and red type; red for when hero Bastian Balthazar Bux is moving about in the humdrum and dreary world of the everyday, and green for when he is adventuring in the magical kingdom of Fantastica; its cover is resplendent with a vivid scene of mysterious creatures, jesters, wise men, and noble knights, with the Childlike Empress's motto DO WHAT YOU WISH emblazoned across the back. An entire universe predicated on the idea that good books should never have to come to an end is one we'd very much like to live in, Author-friends, and over the years this book, which we reread at least once annually, has never lost its seductive power. The Gmork still scares us, the Childlike Empress still fascinates us, the devious and manipulative Xayide and the wedge she drives between self-crowned emperor Bastian and loyal Atreyu infuriates us, and we have never forgotten the surreal and gorgeous imagery of Bastian's final silent labor in the dream mines and the still winter plain that surrounds them. We read the entire book for the first time in a single day, holed up Bastian-like with a store of snacks, and no book since, no matter how lovely, how moving, or how perfectly crafted, has ever had a magic quite like this one.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
1. Publishing is totally controlled by gay feminists. Mmm hmm. So true. You're a white guy? Writing a thriller, you say? Give up now, Author-friend. Don't even bother. Yesterday we were all like, "Hey "Steve," we just got this email from some dude named Dan B. Patterson-Grisham? He's, like, tired of his agent? And wants you to rep him?" and "Steve" was all like, "Is it feminist? Is it gay? No? THEN GET IT OUT OF MY GODDAMN OFFICE, AND DON'T MAKE ME TELL YOU TWICE."
2. The entire publishing industry--nay! make that the entire free world!--is this VERY SECOND HURTLING TOWARD GOMORRAH. Hurtling, author-friends! Hurtling! As opposed to the Fine Days of Yore, when Mankind upheld such Lofty Artistic Ideals as slavery, public executions, burning people at the stake, and lynching, and wrote Great Timeless Art composed of extensive gay/incest jokes (Shakespeare, Marlowe), extensive lists of ladies slept with (H. Miller), extensive wildly commercial quasi-communist diatribes about the plight of the working class (Dickens), or extensive homoerotic bestiality narratives (Melville). Books now? TOTAL CRAP. Junot Diaz? Wells Tower? Tom Spanbauer? Joseph O'Neill? Edward P. Jones? POPULIST CLAPTRAP. And don't even get us STARTED on the books written by WOMEN. UGH. Women! Hate 'em! EVERYONE knows that WOMEN only get published because of AFFIRMATIVE ACTION.
Oh man, we are going to get so much shit for that Melville comment. Y'all read some Freud, and you'll be in our corner.
Friday, October 09, 2009
From someone who is on your side, Author-friends! From ONE OF YOU! Don't you try and tell us we don't listen to you. Chérie L'Ecrivain, should you care, is a real (delightful) person, agented, currently revising first novel. No, that's not her real name, dimbulbs.
Dear Publishing Industry: And Now, A Word From Your Target Audience
by Chérie L'Ecrivain
We writers of today are blessed to have access to such a wealth of information regarding the innermost thoughts of the agents/assistants/editors/etc that are at the receiving end of our efforts. You have so kindly detailed for us the many ways not to write a query and your formidable list of pet peeves; you have tempered your encouragement with gentle, diplomatic realism; you have exhausted yourselves over and over by repeating the most basic axioms such as "show don't tell" in every possible iteration because you realize that not everyone has received this memo yet, and bless your hearts, you won't rest until everyone does. You are dogged and tireless in your mission to properly educate us in your preferred fonts and margin sizes, and we promise that we are listening. We take your advice, which is so often dispensed in ALL CAPS TO REALLY EMPHASIZE HOW FRUSTRATED YOU ARE, and occasionally we look up from fine-tuning our novel/synopsis/proposal/query as per your exact specifications, only to confirm that, yes, the World of Publishing is still running itself into the ground with considerable aplomb. Ahem. Well. The publishing blogosphere has been so generous in its free advice to authors that we thought, in the spirit of reciprocity, that we would give a little something back.
1. The Kindle Will Not Save You
When we make things digital--like books and music--it is tantamount to making them free, via the magic of the interwebs. iTunes makes for lovely window dressing, but anyone who thinks recorded music hasn't been completely demonetized is severely out of touch with reality. But, really, who cares--because now I can try out new music with impunity, which means I'll fall in love with more bands and go their shows and buy their t-shirts and I am still supporting them with my green green American dollars.But for writers, the book is the whole thing. It's the album, it's the show, it's the t-shirt. It is the only thing we are selling. If you download a pirated copy of my book and love it, great--then what? Maybe you send me a nice email saying that it really moved you and I get paid, what, in emoticons? Can I give my agent 15% of a smiley face? And then she can compensate her overworked assistant with some warm feelings? Your occasional reassurance that there will always be some "die hards" committed to reading their books on paper does little to alleviate this bad feeling I have that when we fawn over the latest e-reader (which will become irrelevant the moment Apple finally releases the ever-elusive iTablet and your Kindle is instantly transformed into a $400 beige paperweight, unless you have the DX and then I suppose it's more of a doorstop) all we are doing is rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. World of Publishing: y'all need a plan.The first step would be:
2. Stop Giving James Frey Money
The jacket copy for "Bright Shiny Morning" begins:"One of the most celebrated and controversial authors in America delivers his first novel--a sweeping chronicle of contemporary Los Angeles that is bold, exhilarating, and utterly ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ--Oh, I'm sorry, I think I dozed off there for a second, although I did enjoy a hearty chuckle at the claim that this was his first novel. Also, gang, when Oprah calls bullshit on you in front of a national audience it's not controversy, it's humiliation. Controversial books are the ones that are frightening in the power of their honesty, and I think it's safe to say that A Million Little Pieces was underwhelming in that regard. And if a portrait of a recovering drug addict getting a root canal without Novocain is what now passes for controversy in literature then SWEET JESUS GOD HELP US ALL.I don't actually care about James Frey beyond the fact that he's pretty representative of publishing's, er, dubious business model, which seems to consist these days of flinging prodigious amounts of money at authors/personalities/semi-literate politicians once or twice a year and following up the deal with months of hysterical hand-wringing about how there's no money to buy manuscripts. World of Publishing, you need your money for other things besides Frey's forthcoming Twilight, With Aliens . You need your money because:
3. You Need to Spend Money to Make Money
And not on million dollar advances. On your WORKFORCE. For the same amount of money they paid for Bright Shiny Morning , a novel the LA Times called "execrable," Harper Collins could have hired thirty people at an actual living wage, plus health insurance, for a full year, to do literally nothing but sit around and come up with ideas on how to create a more sustainable publishing industry. It has also been suggested that paying assistants and such slightly-higher-than-subsistence wages could breed some diversity in the people attracted to working in publishing, and then things could get CRAZY. But NAY, surely it is more efficient to underpay and overwork a never-ending parade of increasingly burned-out and jaded devotees of the written word—specifically, 23-year-old English majors from the liberal arts colleges of the Northeast and, occasionally, the Midwest? Isn’t it? ISN’T IT?World of Publishing, you know I love you, and I know you’re trying. Except for those three months a year when you grind to a halt because the weather is nice.
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
Monday, October 05, 2009
Well! Turns out we just had a very bad cold. We do tend a bit toward the melodramatic, as you may have noticed. Not our fault! Only child! We became somewhat confused between all the helpful naturopathic remedies offered us by our dear readers, and ended up chasing our Nyquil with bourbon (when in doubt, sterilize) which seems to have worked out fine. At any rate, our brush with death afforded us an excellent opportunity to spend a happy Saturday lolling about in our pajamas, reading an entire book from cover to cover (EEEEE!!! THE LUXURY!) and demanding our Support Team watch Reality Bites with us; during viewing of said film, we made a Strange Discovery.
Author-friends, we have not seen Reality Bites since we were fourteen; but we DISTINCTLY REMEMBER it as being a lovely and winsome little film, perfectly capturing the slacker glamour of an Adult Life we could only hope to attain. The debauched evenings! The Companions Who Understand! The agonizing choice between Fiscal Stability and the deliciously tormented Ethan Hawke, epitome of grunge-era masculine delight! Well, here's the Strange Discovery: Reality Bites is a TERRIBLE MOVIE. Really, epically, TERRIBLE. Plot? Contrived. Romantic tension? Forced. Conflict? Pathetic, totally unsympathetic, of absolutely no interest whatsoever. Ethan Hawke? GOOD LORD. We spent the entire first half of the movie shrieking WHEN IS SOMEONE GOING TO MAKE HIM WASH HIS GODDAMN HAIR until even our normally unflappable Support Team threatened us with physical restraint. (We also distinctly remembered Reality Bites as set in Seattle and prominently featuring the pulchritudinous Badmotorfinger -era Chris Cornell, until we realized we were confusing it with Singles , which makes us feel as though dementia may be setting in early, but that is neither here nor there).
Why are we telling you this, Author-friends? Let our example serve to you as a Warning on the Pitfalls of Unexamined Nostalgia and Sentimentality. We see all sorts of queries from persons wishing to evoke the halcyon days of one bygone era or another (confidential to the people who keep sending "Steve" queries for novels about the charms of the antebellum South: knock that shit off, it's CREEPY), but let us remember that any great novel which evokes said nostalgia also manages in some way to undermine or critique it (Gatsby, anyone?). You may consider yourself excused from this rule if you are a nineteenth-century Frenchman; but in that case, you are also dead, which makes writing a novel somewhat difficult (INSERT VAMPIRE/DAN BROWN/SARAH PALIN JOKE HERE). There is really no era in human history in which things didn't suck for at least a few people, and while we do not necessarily subscribe to the theorem that Fiction cannot be Great if it is not Depressing (ANGELA CARTER!), we do vehemently insist that you proceed with caution into the territory of the twee rosy past. Sometimes things we remember (as a person, or as a culture) as being marvelous really were that marvelous; Eric's Trip, for example, is every bit as awesome now as they were when we were fifteen. But tread with caution, dear Author-friends, upon the Florid Path of Memory.
After that bout of Pretension we shall return shortly to our regular programming of incoherent tirades and rabid foaming. We love you, Author-friends!
Saturday, October 03, 2009
Nice Assistant: Did you hear about the swine flu outbreak on the eleventh floor?
Le R.: ?!?
Nice Assistant: No, really. The super told me.
Le R.: Swine flu! Who actually gets swine flu! That's so silly!
Nice Assistant: I have some extra hand sanitizer if you want any.
Le R.: Pshaw!
Cut to Le R., swaddled in blankets, hacking and shivering, unable to leave bed, doped to gills on Nyquil, googling symptoms of swine flu, feebly demanding snacks and coffee be brought to us by obliging Support Team. We only have a little bit of a fever. That's okay, right? WE CAN'T AFFORD TO GET SICK. REALLY.
Thursday, October 01, 2009
Recently we watched a couple of episodes of The Rachel Zoe Project , for reasons we do not feel the need to disclose at this time. Rachel Zoe, for those of you who don't know, is a Celebrity Stylist (i.e. someone who picks out clothes for people who are so incapacitated by their own wealth they are unable to dress themselves) who initially became famous by transforming Nicole Richie from this into this Watching Rachel Zoe in action, a number of things become clear: she is a. deeply terrifying, b. someone who really ought to eat a sandwich, and c. not the brightest bulb in the chandelier. However, she is also a lady who Gets Stuff Done. And someone who Gets Stuff Done, author-friends, is someone who has Important Lessons to offer you.
1. Kill Your Darlings. They are always telling you this in Fiction 101, right? But it's true. Sometimes your wild brilliant best-beloved ideas are also the ones that completely, totally FAIL. Like when you are selecting Anne Hathaway's dress for the Oscars, and you have a Vision, that the dress you need is totally a particular Armani couture gown but what it Really Really Needs is a GIGANTIC TRAIN MADE OUT OF TAFFETA and you get Giorgio Armani to make you the gigantic train of taffeta custom and send it to your hotel room along with his entire Support Team, which is a lot more people than OUR poor long-suffering and deeply beloved Support Team, and you realize when you see the Armani dress on the live model that Giorgio Armani has specially sent you, from like Belorus or wherever they get ladies that skinny, that the whole gigantic train of taffeta was actually not a good idea, and you have to be all like, "Never mind about the taffeta, I changed my mind," even though Giorgio Armani's entire Support Team is staring at you in disbelief and hatred. We never said writing was EASY.
2. Be Open To The Joyful Accident. By which we do not mean In Your Pants. This is like when you are completely fixated on the Armani for Anne H. but suddenly poof! become aware that Marchesa makes some very lovely dresses also, with nice beaded details. So that whole part of your novel where you thought Muffy the Bunny should go to Happyville and bake gingerbreads? Maybe Muffy is actually a VAMPIRE. Fling yourself upon the wild abandon that is the Universe, Author-friends. The Accident loves you. Love it back. You think we are talking out our ass right now, but we are so quoting Sark, who makes a lot more money than either of us, so MAYBE YOU SHOULD PAY ATTENTION.
3. Love Your Support Team. Like poor bleachy Louboutin-ed skeletal assistant Taylor, who is so underappreciated! And that one time she hauled all over the known universe trying to find the perfect outfits for Jennifer Garner's magazine spread and then it totally turned out the photo shoot was just a face shot and all her hard work was for nothing and she wanted to cry a little bit but still she had the love for Rachel even though it was Rachel's fault for not telling her it was totally just a face shot and the outfits were completely unnecessary! Or surprisingly sensible husband Rodger, who is always full of sage advice, like: "People might be talking about how much they hate you, but they're still talking about you, which is a lot more than they are talking about other people." Who is at home right now, author-friends, putting up with your wack shit and all your whining all the time about how you are No Good and will Never Amount To Anything and maybe you should just go into retail or shoot yourself and probably you are also heinously ugly and a failure but everyone is just too polite to tell you but also the only people who get published suck waaaaaay way way more than you and there is no goddamn justice in this ugly hateful world? Who is making gentle soothing noises and hitting you upside the head when you are being really pathetic? Your dear sweetheart? Your mom? Your pop? Your bestie? Your boss? Your wee kitten? Your own Killer Yapp? LOVE THAT PERSON, Author-friends. LOVE THEM. And share the cookies.
4. Cut the Fat. Your BOOK. Not YOU. Good lord, we are not EVIL. All that flabby exposition, all that gelatinous dialogue, the saddlebags of your plot twists; imagine the liposuction, author-friends! The juice fast! The hotbox yoga! Whatever it takes! Work it! Work it! and Cut! Cut! CUT! Look at Rachel! You think SHE eats carbohydrates? NO EXTRA WEIGHT, author-friends. Not an OUNCE.
Okay, so we only watched 1.5 episodes of The Rachel Zoe Project, in five-minute increments on Youtube, because we don't own a television. But aren't those good lessons?